Five wildly creative siblings are drawn back into each other’s orbit during a crisis.
After taking a lighthearted approach to the coming-of-age story in her debut (Mother Country, 2003), Leon now turns her attention to a dysfunctional family drama whose ensemble cast endear themselves to the reader through sheer awkwardness. Much of the tale is told by Mark Bennett, long known as Quark, a genius-level physics student and 36-year-old virgin. Mark believes the death of a lost sibling was the proverbial Big Bang that set each member on their present course. “Everything we were, every possibility of what we might have become ended, was made senseless at the moment of Peter’s suicide,” he tells his shrink. Traveling parallel paths are Mark’s youngest brother Luke, a destitute artist, as well as twin sisters Sarah, a famous New York photographer whose subject is the homeless, and Ellie, a free-spirited nymph newly pregnant in Greece. The only mundane member of the tribe is eldest sister Mary, who cares for the group’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted father and plays mother hen to her scattered family. “We are different voices clamoring to be heard, separate lives woven together by the glue of my memory, of my worry,” says Mary. “We are almost like a novel I could be reading, bit by bit in stolen moments.” In fact, Leon does a marvelous job of constructing the novel from bits and pieces of literary stuff. Sarah adopts a homeless woman she believes is their long-lost mother, while the other siblings bring their own companions and psychic baggage to a hesitant family reunion. Along the way, Leon lets each character take turns telling the story and stitches together their collisions via e-mails, texts and telephone conversations, maintaining a healthy balance between tart humor and touching drama.
Quirky, funny and eminently readable.